This is a game that pushes PC hardware to the limit, and puts so called ‘next-gen’ consoles to shame.What a time for PC gaming. Quake Wars, Team Fortress 2, Portal, and Call of Duty 4 have raised the bar consistently over the past few months, collectively making this Christmas one of the strongest periods we’ve seen. But what this stellar line up needs is a leader. It needs a game that pushes PC hardware to the limit, showing off the platform in all its high-powered glory, and putting so called ‘next-gen’ consoles to shame. And it wouldn’t just be eye candy – the gameplay would reinvent how we think about first-person shooters, making every other game we’ve played before feel dull and lifeless.
Folks, that game is Crysis.
Developed by the team behind Far Cry, Crysis shares some of that game’s qualities. For starters, it’s set on a lush, tropical island, with expansive environments, strict objective-based missions and a lame plot. But that’s just about where the similarities end, and to write it off as simply a better-looking Far Cry would be criminal at the least. Of course, it is better-looking in every conceivable way, from its excellent physics model and destructible environments, to the realistic vegetation, water and terrain, but no amount of superlatives can truly represent how great it looks – you simply
need to see it in action.
Instead, let’s look at what life is like for a futuristic special forces soldier traipsing around a communist-infested tropical island.
Crysis has a clichéd near-future storyline involving aliens, but it’s not particularly important or interesting. All you need to know is that you’re shooting North Koreans, which is made all the more easy thanks to your incredible technological advantage: the nanosuit. This magical piece of clothing lets you switch between modes – speed, strength, defense and stealth – via a quick mouse gesture. Every mode uses up energy (which is replenished quickly), and each mode is useful in its own way.
Of all the modes, it’s stealth that you’ll be employing most often, given that it turns you into a nigh-invisible killing machine. But like every other suit mode, you’ll find the energy is used up just a little too quickly when sneaking around, causing you to find a corner to hide in and re-energise. And don’t expect to flit around your enemy, picking them off like the alien in the Predator movies – a single shot from your weapon will cause you to de-cloak instantly, attracting heavy streams of bullets from all angles.
All this opens up an array of strategies, letting you think your way out of situations rather than constantly fighting. You might think switching between modes, weapons, and tactics on the fly would be a frustrating exercise in extreme multi-tasking, but after a couple of hours you’ll be zipping in and out of firefights with ease. Knowing how much energy you have left at a given moment becomes second nature, and the ebb and flow of switching modes, finding a place to briefly rest, and then jumping back into action imparts a kind of rhythmic cadence that typifies the gameplay in Crysis.
The nanosuit might be your best asset, but it’s useless without a set of weapons. Unfortunately, while Crysis supplies a range of firearms, from akimbo pistols right up to alien energy weapons, it’s largely unoriginal. On the other hand, you can customise each weapon in a variety of ways, like swapping scopes, laser sights, silencers, ammo types, and more. The weapon configurations aren’t particularly well balanced – there’s little reason not to use a silencer, for example – but when combined with the nanosuit, you have a ton of options when approaching missions. Do you use your strength to jump onto a roof, punch a hole in the ceiling, drop in the middle and throw your enemy out a window? Do you creep silently, picking off your foes one-by-one? Or do you forego the suit altogether and drive a jeep off a ridge into the village, landing on a building and flattening it completely?
Crysis may be gorgeous and fun to play, but it’s not perfect. The game takes a dive towards the end when you’re taking on alien robots and squid monsters – frankly, clearing out North Korean villages against ‘normal’ opponents is just more interesting. The AI, too, is surprisingly poor: too often your opponent will run around like a fool after being shot, wondering where the bullets are coming from. Perhaps North Korean soldiers aren’t particularly bright and CryTeam has provided a perfect simulation, but we doubt it.
The incredible graphics engine also carries a heavy toll, enough to cripple a speedy PC at any resolution over 1280 x 1024, and consequently putting it out of reach of most gamers. In this way, it’s similar to Far Cry, where many gamers didn’t even bother playing it until they had a capable PC. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – after three years, Far Cry looks fantastic today, and is still used by our Labs team for testing hardware – but it’s disappointing to have to wait until you have the hardware to handle it.
But these are all minor blemishes on a great game, which will only get better once the fan community gets its hands on the built-in modding tools. And if you feel your PC can’t handle it yet, don’t worry. Crysis will still look great in 12 months time.